In an article published Wednesday — “Was Lionel Messi Tired?” — we proposed that Messi’s sometimes-criticized “work rate” — the fact that he appears to cover less distance on the field per minute than just about any non-goalkeeper — might actually be an important part of what makes him as good as he is.It’s a counterintuitive possibility and would fly in the face of conventional wisdom, as well as decades of soccer coaching. But at the very least, it deserves to be considered.And this wouldn’t be the first time the conventional wisdom seemed lacking with regard to Messi.For example, Messi hardly ever uses “crossing passes” to set up other players. Such passes have traditionally been considered a cornerstone of soccer offense, and empirically they’re still the dominant method of delivering the ball into the penalty area. In the Opta play-by-play data set, about 42 percent of such deliveries are crosses, yet Messi has eschewed them as far back as our data goes (his comparable rate is less than 10 percent).Meanwhile, recent research suggests that crossing passes aren’t as good as people have long thought. Cursory analysis supports those findings: Non-cross passes into the penalty area seem to lead to goals slightly more often than crosses.But even if we assume the balance between crosses and not crosses was optimal, there would seem to be an even better reason why Messi doesn’t use them: comparative advantage. Although he’s good and productive when he uses crosses, he’s even better when he doesn’t. The following chart compares regular open-play (non-set-piece) passes into the penalty area by Messi and by everyone, from crosses and not-crosses:There’s this thing that everyone does that’s supposedly super-important. Except that it’s not as good as people think it is. And though Messi’s good at it, he’s better at something else. So he does that instead.Just how rare is it to cross so little?This sort of thing is style-dependent. Barcelona runs a more possession-based offense (crosses are the favored technique of the up-down, attacking-style soccer traditionally favored by England), yet Barca players other than Messi use crosses to deliver to the penalty area about 30 percent of the time — much, much closer to the 42 percent average of teams in the big five soccer leagues than to Messi’s rate.Messi also plays in the center above the box, which means he’s in position to cross less often. But this is true of many players, and Messi makes more non-cross passes and fewer cross passes (relatively) than anyone (including even midfielders):Much like how Messi “takes on” more defenders than anyone — because he’s better at it than anyone — on non-cross passes into the penalty area, Messi has an edge he likes, so he hammers it and hammers it and hammers it.
Monthly Archives: September 2019
On Friday, an arbitrator overturned the indefinite suspension of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who violently assaulted his then-fiancee (now wife) in an elevator in February. The arbitrator found that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was not misled by Rice when Goodell initially suspended Rice for two games, and that Goodell’s decision to extend Rice’s ban — following enormous public outcry after the release of a more graphic video of the incident — was “arbitrary.”The ruling means Rice is free to sign with any NFL team, and reports Sunday were that at least four teams were interested. Ethically, there’s no escaping Rice’s scandal and the probable uproar his signing would bring to whichever team takes a chance on him. But there’s also the question of whether Rice is even worth having on the field.From 2009 to 2012, Rice was arguably the best running back in football. But in 2013, he was horrific, ranking last in yards per rush among RBs with at least 200 carries. In fact, restricting the comparison to his contemporaries actually understates how bad Rice was a year ago; among all historical NFL running back seasons of 200 or more carries, only five saw a lower yards-per-carry average than Rice’s 3.08 mark in 2013.Yards per carry isn’t everything, of course. It can be highly volatile from year to year (or even within the same season), overly responsive to a handful of anomalous long runs and not representative of the fact that, when they run the ball, coaches are trying to maximize “success rate” — the rate at which a play increases the team’s expected points — not yards per play.But Rice also had the league’s worst success rate among running backs with 200 or more carries in 2013. And spearheaded by Rice, the Ravens’ rushing offense was the least efficient in football. Furthermore, Pro Football Focus’s play-by-play grading metrics, which measure how well a player fulfilled his responsibilities on a given play, rated Rice as the worst halfback in the NFL a season ago — not only because he was the worst rusher (by far), but also because he was the league’s fifth-worst blocker at the position. (It doesn’t help Rice that his replacement on the Ravens, Justin Forsett, is averaging 5.6 yards per carry and already has 349 more rushing yards this season than Rice had in 2013 — on 35 fewer carries.)So, by any standard, Rice was awful when he last played. And at age 27, he’s at the point on the running back aging curve where production starts to fall off a cliff. FiveThirtyEight contributor Chase Stuart looked at a cohort of recent RBs who had good careers (at least 5,000 career rushing yards and 40 rushing yards per game) and found that nearly a third of them were washed up by the end of their age 28 season. Almost two-thirds were finished by age 29.Even after his reinstatement (and the requisite quotes about Rice having stayed in “great shape” during the ban), Rice is unlikely to contribute to a team in any meaningful way this season. So whoever signs him is looking at maybe two more seasons of any productivity from him — and that’s without factoring in a year of rust and just how bad Rice was when he last took the field. Combined with the seemingly inevitable backlash his signing will cause, it’s tough to find any logical reason to give Rice another chance in the NFL.
Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. On this week’s show (May 17, 2016), we talk about the Western Conference finals and wonder whether the Warriors are really on the ropes after Monday night’s loss to the Thunder. Then FiveThirtyEight’s Christie Aschwanden makes her Hot Takedown debut to talk about how concussions are different in women’s sports than men’s. Finally, we talk to Ben Morris about sumo wrestling and break down how a centuries-old data set can help us determine who is the greatest fighter of all time. Plus, a significant digit on the advanced statistics making their way to the WNBA.Neil Paine says the Thunder’s big men could stop the Warriors.Neil also says the Thunders-Warriors series is the strongest conference final matchup in decades.ESPN Stats and Info breaks down the numbers behind the Thunder’s victory in Game 1.Sorry, Rasheed, the ball does lie, writes The Wall Street Journal.Women get sports concussions at higher rates than men, writes Christie Aschwanden.And here is Christie’s column, Strength In Numbers, where she explores the science of sports and athleticism.Benjamin Morris on the sumo matchup centuries in the making.And here is FiveThirtyEight’s history of sumo in chart form.Also, read this Grantland profile of Hakuho, the greatest sumo wrestler of our time.Significant Digit: 1997. That’s the year the WNBA has announced it will go back to when it releases box score stats for every completed league game. More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed FiveThirtyEight Embed Code If you’re a fan of our podcasts, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave a rating/review. That helps spread the word to other listeners. And get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments. Tell us what you think, send us hot takes to discuss and tell us why we’re wrong.
The winners of these two matches will play each other on July 9 at 4 p.m. EDT. See our World Cup predictions for the latest probabilities.In DepthThe second- and third-lowest-scoring teams to make the quarterfinals of this World Cup square off against each other in Saturday’s early game (Belgium, with six goals, vs. Argentina, with seven), and then the lowest-scoring team (Costa Rica, with five goals) faces the highest-scoring side (the Netherlands, which has scored 12).Let’s look at Belgium vs. Argentina first.Since Argentina ignominiously exited the 2010 World Cup with a second consecutive quarterfinal loss to Germany, little Lionel Messi has been dominating the world of soccer like nothing we’ve seen in modern times.After scoring only one goal in both his previous World Cup tournaments combined, this year he’s taken the tournament by storm, scoring four goals (including a stoppage-time game-winner against Iran) in his first three matches, and recording the game-winning assist with just minutes remaining in the fourth.Stoking questions about whether it relies too much on Messi, however, the rest of his team has been awful on offense; Argentina’s other players have managed to put the same number of balls into their opponents’ nets (one) as those opponents have themselves (Bosnia’s own goal). Argentina’s shooting breaks down like so:Messi has scored on four of 16 shots (including converting three of 11 attempts from outside the penalty area).In the 18 shots set up by Messi (the highest number of chances created by any player going into the quarterfinals), Argentina has scored once (Angel di Maria’s game-winner against Switzerland).In the 46 shots Messi was not involved in, Argentina has scored only once, failing to score on all 42 attempts from outside the 6-yard box.Thus — despite having Messi, and despite Messi playing brilliantly — Argentina has only scored on 7.5 percent of its shot attempts, second-worst among quarterfinalists.Belgium, on the other hand, has seen six different players score. But that’s only six goals; even though Belgium has taken a tournament-leading 21 shots per game, the Red Devils have scored on only 7.2 percent of those shots, the worst of all quarterfinalists.Belgium has largely gotten by on excellent goalkeeping, with Thibaut Courtois allowing only two goals despite facing 13 shots on goal worth 4.84 expected goals (using ESPN/TruMedia’s Expected Goals model). His .22 “goals allowed below average” (GABA) per shot is the highest of remaining goalies (higher is better).Another team with good goalkeeping so far is Costa Rica, whose Keylor Navas has saved 14 of 16 shots on goal, with an average GABA of .21 per shot, good for second behind Courtois.Neither Costa Rica nor the Netherlands are what you’d call possession teams: Despite their impressive run, the Netherlands has held the ball just 44 percent of the time, and Costa Rica has held it 42 percent (the only other quarterfinalist with less than 50 percent possession was Colombia, with 46 percent). The flip side of playing this way is that these two teams also lead quarterfinalists in average pass distance (21.7 and 20.8 yards, respectively).But for the most part, Costa Rica seems badly overmatched. While they’ve shot a respectable 14.3 percent, that’s mostly because they’ve been unable to get shots at all — they’ve taken about nine shots per game, averaging only three on goal. Both those figures are by far the lowest of any remaining squad.The Netherlands, on the other hand, had one the most impressive runs into the quarterfinals. The Dutch faced the most difficult route (their opponents had an average Soccer Power Index rating of 80.0), but so far have the second-highest goal differential at +8.The Netherlands has been far superior on contested plays. When taking on defenders, the Flying Dutchmen have been successful a whopping 69 percent of the time. That compares to just 31 percent for Costa Rica. The Netherlands has won contested balls in the air at a 57 percent rate, compared to 36 percent for Costa Rica.In trying to find what, aside from good fortune and good goalkeeping, has driven Costa Rica’s gritty run (it’s scraped by against the second-hardest schedule), just about the only thing I could come up with was evidence of how well it’s run the offside trap. Costa Rica has drawn an enormous number of offsides calls: It’s pulled its opponents offsides 28 times (the next-most among quarterfinalists was 12, by Germany).Overall, our World Cup odds give Argentina a 14.9 percent chance of winning it all, the Netherlands an 11.8 percent chance, Belgium a 2.3 percent chance, and Costa Rica a 0.7 percent chance.YesterdayIn the first competitive match between France and Germany since the semifinals of the 1986 World Cup, Germany took the lead early with a headed goal by defender Mats Hummels. It was Hummels’s second goal of the World Cup, making him the first defender to score twice in this year’s tournament (he would get company later in the day). Both of Hummels’s goals have been headers, and both have been by assisted by Toni Kroos.For Germany, headers are nothing new: Over the past 50 years (as far back as ESPN Stats & Info’s data set goes), Germany has scored 37 headed goals in World Cup play, nearly twice as many as any other country (Italy has 19). Scoring first — by head or foot — has been Germany’s recipe for success in the World Cup, especially as of late. The Germans are 21-0-2 in their last 23 World Cup matches when scoring first, their last loss coming in the 1994 quarterfinals to Bulgaria.France, on the other hand, trailed for the first time at this year’s tournament, and still has never won in a World Cup match when trailing at halftime, losing all 11 times. Les Bleus made efforts to equalize, ending up with more shots (13) than Germany (8), and more chances created (10 to 7). But it was all for naught.In Friday’s second match, Brazil opened the scoring in the seventh minute, its fastest goal of the tournament. The goal came from a Neymar corner kick, his first assist of the tournament. It was Thiago Silva’s first career World Cup goal, and it was Brazil’s third goal from a corner, tied with France and Germany for the most in this World Cup.Brazil was in control for the remainder of the first half, completing seven of 15 passes into the attacking penalty area and creating seven total chances. Neymar created four chances, including the assist; Colombia, as a team, created two in the first half.Brazil extended its lead to 2-0 on defender David Luiz’s 34-yard free kick, the second-longest goal of the tournament. Luiz failed to score in his first 39 career international appearances, but he has found the back of the net in his last two. Brazil has now taken a two-goal lead in a World Cup match 49 times, and has won all 49.The breakout star in the tournament so far, Colombia’s James Rodriguez, converted a penalty to give his side hope; he scored in all five of his games in the tournament. It was his sixth goal, giving him a two-goal lead in the race for the Golden Boot. Colombia scored five goals combined in its last two World Cup appearances (1994 and 1998).Brazil and Germany’s semifinal meeting on Tuesday will, incredibly, mark only the second time these two countries have met at the World Cup. The other was the 2002 final, won by Brazil 2-0. — Jacob Nitzberg, senior statistics analyst, ESPNOff the PitchThe Netherlands and Costa Rica have been friends for a while. In fact, the Dutch were a big source of aid to the Costa Ricans until recently, when the latter ascended to middle-income status. The relationship has gradually shifted to focus more on trade and economic cooperation, but it’s still worth looking at the aid the Netherlands provided over the years.AidData reports that the Dutch sent about $362.5 million Costa Rica’s way between 1978 and 2010. The bulk allocation changed with time, and in the 1980s seemed to focus on industry growth, with $1 million going toward agriculture in 1981, $31 million toward imports to Costa Rica in 1984 and $7 million toward forestry in 1989. The ‘90s began a slow transition, with $17 million spent on multisector industry growth in 1994, $22 million on debt alleviation in 1996 and $21 million on general environmental protection in 1997. With this final pivot, it looks like Costa Rica found its stride — environmental protection continued to be the focus of Dutch aid through 2006, with a final peak of $17 million. Since then, Costa Rica’s tourism industry has boomed, and Dutch aid has all but completely ended.Further ReadingMohawks, Faux-hawks And Macklemores: The Top-Heavy Hairdos of the World CupThe World Cup USMNT Replacement Team Power RankingsStop Making Sense It’s Old Dutch Empire vs. Old Spanish Empire day, as Argentina (independent from Spain since 1816) takes on Belgium (independent from the Netherlands since 1830), and Costa Rica (independent from Spain since 1821) takes on the Netherlands itself.In BriefArgentina vs. Belgium: 12 p.m. EDTNetherlands vs. Costa Rica 4 p.m. EDT
Friday, Feb 27, 3:28 p.m.The panel: “Commissioner’s Perspective: 1 on 1 with Rob Manfred”The panelists: Brian Kenny, Rob ManfredRob Manfred has a long history with Major League Baseball. And Major League Baseball has long tried to avoid letting its history weigh it down. In a wide-ranging interview at Sloan on Friday, one month into his tenure as league commissioner, Manfred sounded like a man trying to make sense of how to reform a game without hollowing it out.A few days ago, Manfred said that there was a universe in which baseball could shave eight games off its regular-season schedule “sometime down the road.” A reduction in the current 162-game schedule could make the sport’s playoff timing a little more flexible, and might increase fan interest in each game. At Sloan, Manfred said he chose the 154-game mark because it would take the majors “back to a number that’s already in our record books.” Could he see MLB going even lower, to 150? No, because then “you’re going to go have a record book with 150, 154, 162 …” Only in baseball, a sport hallowed enough to get the Ken Burns treatment, could the record book be more important than the ledger. Integrity is paramount. (Or as Manfred, who has worked for the league for nearly two decades, put it when talking about whether to reform gambling laws around sports betting: “Integrity, it’s Rule One.”)Yet this is a commissioner who clearly wants to find ways to change the game. Manfred has introduced rules to speed the pace of play, and said Friday he’s very happy with the replay system MLB added last year. He said that in the future — “past Rob Manfred” — the league could have a team outside North America, and before that, maybe even one in Mexico. Now that would be historic. — Chadwick Matlin Sunday, March 1 12:17 a.m.After what conference co-organizer Jessica Gelman said was a “heated discussion,” voters for the top research paper at Sloan reached a split decision and split the $30,000 prize pool between two papers. The winners:Who is Responsible for a Called Strike? by Joe Rosales and Scott SprattCounterpoints: Advanced Defensive Metrics for NBA Basketball by Alexander Franks, Andrew Miller, Luke Bornn and Kirk GoldsberryRosales and Spratt, both of Baseball Info Solutions, presented work suggesting that pitch framing, which has traditionally rewarded most of the credit to catchers alone, is actually a function of three independent participants: the catcher, pitcher, and umpire.Franks, Miller, Bornn, and Goldsberry — all members of Harvard’s XY Hoops group — used player tracking data to quantify individual defensive play in the NBA. The academic version of this group’s paper has been accepted at the statistics journal Annals of Applied Statistics.The groups behind the winning papers each received $15,000 for their efforts. Additionally, Bornn and Goldsberry, along with co-authors Alex D’Amour and Dan Cervone, received the conference’s top poster prize of $1,000 for “Move or Die: How Ball Movement Creates Open Shots in the NBA.” — Mike Lopez Friday, Feb 27, 11:55 a.m.Daryl Morey has been as instrumental to the rise of the Sloan conference as he has been to the rise of the Houston Rockets. Morey, the general manager of the Rockets, has steered the team to third place in the Western conference — behind MVP-candidate James Harden, whom he acquired in a now-legendary 2012 trade — and helped start the Sloan conference in 2007. At Sloan on Friday, I boxed him out to ask a few questions about advanced basketball analytics, specifically player-tracking data from companies like STATS’ SportVU technology. While he can’t divulge the details of the Rockets’ private statistics, Morey’s remarks about the publicly available numbers are especially insightful because the Rockets are one of the most stats-savvy teams — not just in the NBA, but in all of sports. — Andrew FlowersAudio Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/flowers_morey.mp300:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume. Saturday, Feb. 28 3:15 p.m.Will sports betting inevitably become legal in the U.S.? It sure seems like it.Momentum behind legalization has grown since NBA Commissioner Adam Silver wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times in November 2014 explicitly endorsing legal sports gambling. The facade of professional sports leagues that oppose sports betting is beginning to crack. And it’s clear why: money.Silver estimated the market for illegal sports wagering is currently $400 billion per year, though it’s likely that figure is inflated. But even lower-end estimates of around $80 billion still represent a huge market. Sports betting is already enormous in Europe, Australia and many other regions. State governments want in because of the potential revenues.Professional sports leagues are intrigued because they see gambling interest as a ratings driver, much like fantasy sports have been. (And, coincidentally, daily fantasy sports sites – with cash prizes – bear an eerie resemblance to gambling anyway.) Gambling is already inherently analytical; but the appetite of stats-savvy fans for geeky coverage about odds is growing. Jeff Ma, a contributor to ESPN’s new sports-betting site, Chalk – said gambling analytics would meet the demand from those with a “high-brow” interest.But there are major risks to legalization. The revelations that former NBA referee Tim Donaghy owed gambling debts and bet on games he officiated was a reminder of the long, scandalous history of how gambling can challenge the integrity of sports. Here, too, analytics can help. Ryan Rodenberg, a professor at Florida State University, suggested statistical scrutiny of betting markets would combat fraud and fixing. Several private European firms already specialize in such analytics.The panelists were asked that if they had to bet on legalization sweeping the country, when it would happen. The lines offered by the panelists ranged from 2-to-10 years. Dan Spillane, the Assistant General Counsel for the NBA, didn’t offer a timeline, however. He just said “years, not months.” — Andrew Flowers Saturday, Feb. 28, 1:00 p.m.The session: “Analytics of the Tommy John Injury Epidemic”The speaker: Glenn FleisigWe’re in the midst of an epidemic of elbow injuries among major league pitchers. Twenty-five percent of current MLB pitchers have had an ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction (“Tommy John surgery”) and 15 percent of minor league pitchers have undergone the procedure. Over the last decade, the problem has trickled down to high school and little league players. In 1990, none of the baseball players coming to the Andrews Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center clinic Tommy John surgery were kids. Today, one third of them are high school age or younger, said Fleisig, the research director at the American Sports Medicine Institute.What’s to blame for the epidemic of torn elbow ligaments? Are more players getting hurt? Or are we just better at diagnosing these injuries? Are doctors more willing to do the procedure? Or are patients more eager to have it?The answer, said Fleisig, is all of the above. Some players assume they should go in for surgery at the first sign of elbow pain, just “to get it over,” but that’s the wrong attitude. Best case scenario, the surgery can return a player to the career trajectory he was on before he got injured, but it won’t improve performance and not every player makes it back to play, Fleisig said.About 80 percent of major league players who get Tommy John surgeries make it back to the mound, but only two thirds of those who undergo the procedure make it back and stay there.Most elbow ligament injuries occur due to overuse. During the middle part of the pitch when the elbow is held upright at a right angle, the joint experiences severe torque. “It’s like holding a string with five 12-pound bowling balls,” Fleisig said. (That’s why doping raises the risk of an elbow injury — “If you’re on the juice you’re making your muscles too strong for your tendons and ligaments to handle.”)There’s a common notion that curveballs are dangerous, but the research doesn’t bear that out, Fleisig said. “We expected the curveball to have more torque than the fastball, but it turns out it has less.”Four things determine which players get injured — biomechanics, how much a player pitches, training and recovery. “It’s not one of these things or the other, it’s all of them,” Fleisig said.Wear and tear on the elbow is one of the most important factors, and when Fleisig’s group followed a group of 500 kids over a ten-year period, they found that pitching more than 100 competitive innings more than tripled the risk of needing a Tommy John surgery. Likewise, more than 80 pitches per game quadrupled the risk of injury, and kids who pitched when fatigued had 36 times the risk of having surgery.In an effort to cut the rates of elbow injuries among young pitchers, Fleisig and his colleagues have teamed with Major League Baseball to create Pitch Smart, age-appropriate guidelines to avoid injury. Suggestions include limits on the number of pitches thrown and not pitching when fatigued. “The best computer we have is right here,” Fleisig told me, pointing to his head. — Christie Aschwanden Saturday, Feb. 28 4:05 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28, 11:20 a.m. Friday, Feb 27, 12:21 p.m.The Panel: “Valuing Franchises: How Sports Teams Break the DCF”The Panelists: Lyle Ayes, Aswath Damodaran, Joe McNulty, Randy Vataha, Abe Madkour (moderator)The recent sales of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Clippers for over $2 billion have opened up a new paradigm in sports franchise valuations. As shocking as the price of those transactions may have been, the mood at this Sloan panel was buoyant. In fact, panelists seemed to be most worried about prices getting so high that billionaires would be priced out of the market. As Lyle Ayes, managing director of the investment bank Evercore’s sports advisory practice said, “how many people can pay $4 billion for an asset?”Panelists thought the seemingly inexorable rise in franchise valuations was driven by the increasing value of media and content rights. Aswath Damodaran, an NYU professor who focuses on valuation (and FiveThirtyEight contributor), commented that across the entertainment industry, owning content is becoming king. Ayes cited the NBA’s massive new TV deal as evidence of this trend. He noted that advertisers put a large premium on live content like sports because viewers are relatively captive during the event. Interestingly, none of the panel members thought that a team’s performance had a large impact on valuation. The most important factor, according to the panel, was metro area population and GDP. The New York Knicks can command significantly more from their local TV rights for bad basketball than the San Antonio Spurs can command for good.Despite the increase in the real earnings of teams as media deals improve, panelists (with the exception of Ayes), broadly agreed that sports franchises still do not make sense as actual businesses. While they are relatively low-risk and uncorrelated with other potential investments, almost any analysis of the current cash flows — or lack thereof — will not find them to be great investments. As Damodaran noted, the supply of franchises is relatively fixed, while demand has been growing. The panelists did not see this dynamic changing any time soon. — John Ezekowitz Friday, Feb 27, 2:20 p.m.The panel: “Basketball Analytics: Push the Tempo”The panelists: Shane Battier, Mike Zarren, Sue Bird, Mike D’Antoni, Pablo TorreAre basketball teams now so saturated with data and analytics that it’s hard to use them for a competitive advantage?Mike Zarren, assistant general manager for the Boston Celtics, raised an interesting point about what qualifies as analytics in an analytics age. “If I know how well a player slept last night, is that analytics?” The breadth of topics discussed — injuries, biometrics, pace, traditional positions, rest, incentives, shot selection, team chemistry — reveal what a truly broad spectrum of questions and answers fall under the umbrella of basketball analytics. However the field is defined, it all serves the same master: talent. Shane Battier, the poster boy for the adoption of analytic ideas at the player level, summed up the mission perfectly: “It’s about creating space to allow talent to do what they do.”Zarren returned to a well-worn focus at this conference — communication of insights — and defended that arena as the place where a competitive advantage still exists: “You have to use it, it has to affect the decisions you make. I don’t think there is a saturation of that yet.” — Ian Levy Friday, Feb 27, 10:40 a.m.The panel: “Innovators and Adopters”The panelists: Shane Battier, Michael Lewis, Daryl Morey, Jeff Van Gundy and Jackie MacMullanPity Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant. Out for the season with injuries after performances well below their high standards, they’re now punching bags in Boston, at least according to the first session of the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference on Friday.The other panelists treated the retired Battier more or less as Lewis depicted him in a New York Times Magazine article in 2009: the platonic ideal of the intelligent NBA player, one who incorporates insights from advanced statistical analysis to optimize his game for team success. (Battier initially resisted that framing, saying “it was about winning,” before eventually letting on that yeah, he was a pretty smart player.) LeBron James, with whom Battier won two titles in Miami, was the more typical player, open to occasional tastes of analytics-based tips.Anthony and Bryant, though, were depicted as the anti-Battiers, in a question by moderator MacMullan (who, like Battier, works for ESPN, which owns this website and sponsors Sloan). MacMullan noted their selfishness and focus on scoring over other ways of contributing to their teams. (To which my boss, Nate Silver, would respond that Anthony’s shooting makes his teammates better.) Battier made clear how much he relished having those two stars as foils, learning their tendencies so that he could neutralize their strengths when playing defense. MacMullan pointed out that Battier blocked more of their shots than any other player’s. Anthony also topped the Battier leaderboards for balls stolen and offensive fouls drawn. And the pair led another personal leaderboard Battier innovated: They gave him the most “looks of disdain” when they found out he’d be guarding them. — Carl Bialik Friday, Feb 27, 4:35 p.m.At last year’s Sloan conference, Dean Oliver was our ESPN colleague, leading analytics at the Stats & Info Group. This year, he’s here as the Sacramento Kings’ director of player personnel and analytics. I spotted him Friday huddled with a few of his peers from other NBA franchises. Oliver has been in the sports analytics business for three decades, and has seen it grow from a field wrestling with a lack of data to one with more data than it knows what to do with. He spoke with me about the similarities in working for teams and working for sports media, and about what it takes for a franchise to succeed at using analytics. — Carl Bialik Friday, Feb. 27, 6:10 p.m.Walking into a conference at Sloan today I walked by yet another guy in a sports coat — and then did a double take, because this guy’s blazer sleeves were rolled up…and he was a 13 year-old. There are some teenagers running around Sloan but none looked younger than Sam Hafetz and his friends, Manu Hurskovitz, 14, and Jonah White, 14. After calling their parents for permission (hi, Mr. Hurskovitz!), I dragged them to our podcast table. There, Jody Avirgan asked what brought them to Sloan (it’s their second year attending), why they love sports analytics, and what they’d do if they became GMs of the Celtics. — Chadwick MatlinAudio Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/kidsatsloan.mp300:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Friday, Feb. 27, 4:43 p.m.The panel: “Commissioner’s Perspective: Growing Soccer with Don Garber”The panelists: Don Garber, Grant WahlMLB and MLS share two letters and the pickle of how to balance tradition and innovation. Baseball’s struggle comes from within, as Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred showed earlier Friday. Major League Soccer isn’t as conflicted about changing rules and trying new technologies, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. Its burden, unlike MLB’s, is its peripheral place in a global game.Garber said he wanted goal-line review technology, extra time put on scoreboards (instead of only a ref with a “Timex that probably cost 20 bucks” knowing how much time remains) and a whole lot more. “If I were king, we would have instant replay, we would have cameras on our players, we would be putting them on goalposts.” He’d put a microphone on the field. Players would wear GoPro cameras. He watched hockey players wear GoPros at the NHL All-Star Game and thought it was cool.But Garber can’t have all those things. Other sports’ U.S. pro leagues just need to get the owners to agree, but MLS needs the approval of IFAB, the International Football Association Board — or, as Garber called it, the International Federation of Somebody Who Has Something To Do With the Rules That’s Not Me. Garber’s message to IFAB: “Let us be the Guinea pigs.” He worries that the world’s most popular sport could lose its lead “just because of our structure. We should be able to use the power of our influence to lead.” — Carl Bialik Saturday, Feb. 28, 9:50 a.m.There are bold-faced names headlining the ninth annual Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, sure. But for academics like myself the real action is in the research paper contest, where academics and researchers are hoping to create the kinds of insights that the bold-faced names one day treat as gospel. For these researchers, Sloan marks the culmination of what can be more than a year’s worth of work. The stakes are high: top prize is $20,000, with second place worth $10,000. For some of the PhD students submitting papers, that may equal their annual salary.But until now, the mechanics of how this contest is judged have largely been cloudy (see an overview of the 2015 contest here, or my personal experience submitting a paper to the 2014 contest here). On Friday, conference co-lead Paul Campbell helped clarify how Sloan makes its picks. “We try to be consistent about what we solicit,” said Campbell. “We kind of have our perspective on the validity of the method, and making sure that the academic and mathematical rigor is there. Also, do the results make sense?”The 2015 research paper contest began back in September, when Campbell and this year’s judging committee, comprised of various MIT student organizers and academic advisers, received 189 abstracts. Of that total, 68 were invited to turn in a formal paper for submission in mid-December. Paper submissions were placed into one of four tracks: basketball, baseball, other sports or the business of sport. The top two submitted papers from each track were given the opportunity to present at this year’s conference. In addition, 11 papers were given a poster in the halls of the convention center.Each of the eight finalists were allotted a 20-minute presentation on Friday. The judging committee identified the top presentation in each of the four categories based on a 50-50 split of the presentation itself and the originating paper.“We have an idea of what the best analytically rigorous paper is, but we want to see if it is presented well. It’s an equal weighting with [the presentation] and the paper,” said Campbell. The four papers still in the running for the top prize, are:Baseball: Who is Responsible for a Called Strike? by Joe Rosales and Scott SprattBasketball: Counterpoints: Advanced Defensive Metrics for NBA Basketball by Alexander Franks, Andrew Miller, Luke Bornn and Kirk GoldsberryOther Sports: Assessing the productivity of NHL players using in-game win probabilities by Stephen PettigrewBusiness of Sports: Diamonds on the Line: Profits Through Investment Gaming by Clayton Graham.Those four finalists are given an additional 10 minutes with which to make their case, this time in front of a larger and more general audience, including Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey and FiveThirtyEight’s own Nate Silver.Those judges, according to Campbell, are asked to judge by something different than the last committee. “Which of these [papers] seems like the most applicable or potentially transformative within the industry?” $20,000 rides on the answer. — Mike Lopez Saturday, Feb. 28, 1:46 p.m.The panel: “Beating the Shift: Baseball Analytics in the Age of Big Data”The panelists: Sandy Alderson, Dan Brooks, Dave Cameron, Ben Lindbergh, Jonah KeriSloan’s flagship baseball panel largely focused on teams’ reactions to sabermetric findings. Alderson, the general manager of the New York Mets, spoke about the proliferation of defensive shifts, and how it has led to changes in the way certain players are valued — specifically right-handed power hitters.Along the same lines, no discussion of baseball analytics would be complete without some mention of strike zone analysis and catcher pitch-framing metrics. Despite the volume of research on the subject in recent years, the consensus of the group was that the market may still not be properly valuing catchers who “steal” strikes on the edge of the strike zone at a higher rate than their peers. Then again, part of that may relate to a theory that pitch-framing is a taught skill. (We’d have liked to hear more thoughts about how umpires doing better at calling an accurate strike zone has led to baseball’s aforementioned drop in run-scoring.)Finally, Keri asked the panel their thoughts about wins above replacement (WAR). The panel agreed WAR was a valuable framework, even if its individual parts can always stand to be improved. For his part, Alderson confirmed that teams use at least some version of it, even with its imperfections, because the idea of creating a cumulative statistic is appealing. — Harry Enten and Neil Paine FiveThirtyEight’s delegation made the pilgrimage to this year’s Sloan conference, a kind of mecca for anyone who’s obsessed with sports, data and retelling how they first felt when they read “Moneyball.” We updated all of Friday and Saturday from Boston, where Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and our own Nate Silver roamed the halls. Read on for highlights from the weekend. CORRECTION (Feb 28, 9:47 a.m.): A previous version of this article misstated the ages of Sam Hafetz and Jonah White.
OSU redshirt junior safety Tyvis Powell celebrates the Buckeyes’ 44-28 win in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1. Credit: Lantern File PhotoAfter having a league record 12 players drafted in the first four rounds of the 2016 NFL draft, the depth of former Ohio State Buckeyes in the NFL does not stop there. With the release of the 53-man rosters, 40 former Buckeyes have secured spots with NFL teams for the 2016 season, including 14 members from the class of 2016.Undrafted free agents Jalin Marshall and Tyvis Powell were the biggest question marks throughout training camps concerning former Buckeyes making rosters. However, both Marshall and Powell made the final roster cuts for the New York Jets and Seattle Seahawks, respectively.Leading the 2016 Ohio State draft class, Joey Bosa and Ezekiel Elliott are expected to step in and make a large impact for the San Diego Chargers and Dallas Cowboys, respectively. Cardale Jones made Buffalo Bills’ roster after throwing for 362 yards and one touchdown in three games of the preseason.Third-round pick of the Houston Texans, Braxton Miller, hopes to inject the offense with instant playmaking ability, similar to what he did in his final year at OSU. Miller will be competing for playing time with a number of young receivers that Houston has been able to gather through the past few drafts.Former quarterback turned receiver for the Cleveland Browns, Terrelle Pryor, has been able to find a good relationship with his new teammate Robert Griffin III after having a limited role last year. Marshall will be joined in New York by 2015 alumnus, Devin Smith, who missed the end of last season after a torn ACL in week 14. Smith will be eligible to play post-week six after opening camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list.The NFL season opens on Thursday, Sept. 8, when the Carolina Panthers play the Denver Broncos. Six former Buckeyes will play in that game.
Ohio State freshman forward Samantha Bouley skates toward the puck against Minnesota in Minneapolis on Jan. 21. Credit: Courtesy of OSU AthleticsThe Ohio State women’s hockey team split a two-game series with No. 4 Minnesota (17-5-3, 12-4-3) in Minneapolis this weekend, losing the first game 2-1 and tying the second 1-1, ending in a 2-1 shootout victory. Saturday’s game marked the first time OSU has earned points against the Golden Gophers since Jan. 11, 2015. The Buckeyes moved to 11-12-3 overall and 5-12-3 in conference.On Friday night, Ohio State had a 1-0 lead through the first two periods. After a scoreless first period, junior forward Julianna Iafallo scored the first goal of the game off an assist from sophomore forward Maddy Field to put Ohio State up 1-0 in the second. Minnesota was kept out of the net for the remainder of the second period thanks to 18 saves from Buckeye goalie Kassidy Sauve.The Scarlet and Gray got off on the wrong foot in the third period with a penalty to put Minnesota on the power play. At 10:48 on the game clock, the Gophers scored their first goal of the game to tie things up 1-1. Shortly after, Minnesota scored again at 16:23 to take the 2-1 lead. The Gophers held off the Buckeyes for the remaining minutes and won 2-1. Sauve had 31 saves against Minnesota but the OSU offense had only eight shots on goal the entire game.On Saturday, the game started out in a similar fashion with another scoreless first period. At 9:38 in the second, Minnesota scored the first goal of the game to take a 1-0 lead. The two teams had a combined seven penalties in the first two periods. At 1:27 in the third period, OSU senior forward Katie Matheny scored off an assist from Field to tie the game 1-1. Sauve defended the Minnesota attack perfectly for the rest of the period and the two teams went into overtime at Ridder Arena. The Buckeye goaltender had 26 saves through regulation.Through five minutes of overtime, the teams remained scoreless and went to a shootout. Minnesota’s Lee Stecklein shot first and scored for the Gophers, but junior defenseman Dani Sadek responded with a goal of her own. The teams went through seven shooters until Iafallo got one past the Gopher goalie to secure the Buckeye win, 2-1. Due to NCAA rules, all shootout wins are recorded as ties in the record book.Minnesota, the best power play team in the NCAA, had seven power play opportunities this weekend, all of which were killed by the Buckeyes. OSU went 0-3-1 against the top-ranked Golden Gophers this season which is an improvement from last year’s 0-4-0.Next up, the Scarlet and Gray will travel to Duluth, Minnesota, for a two-game series against conference opponent No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth.
LAWRENCE, Kan. — All eyes are on Ohio State men’s basketball’s sophomore forward Jared Sullinger, whose availability is unknown as the Buckeyes prepare for their first road test of the season against the University of Kansas Jayhawks. After suffering back spasms in a Nov. 29 victory against Duke and missing No. 2-ranked OSU’s last game, Sullinger may miss consecutive games for the first time in his college career when the Buckeyes battle the No. 13-ranked Jayhawks Saturday in Lawrence, Kan. Sullinger’s health was the first topic OSU coach Thad Matta addressed during a Thursday press conference. “(Sullinger) is feeling better,” Matta said. “He’s doing more every day, but quite honestly, I don’t know if we’ll know until Saturday whether he’s going to play or not.” An OSU athletic department spokesman did not immediately respond to The Lantern’s Saturday request for comment regarding Sullinger’s status. OSU sophomore guard Aaron Craft said Sullinger was walking around gingerly at the start of the week, but made noticeable improvements in the days that followed. Craft added that he was uncertain of Sullinger’s availability the Kansas game. “(Sullinger) has got the bounce back in his step,” Craft said. “We’ll just see how it goes.” Matta said he was amazed at how much better Sullinger was moving around, but that he doesn’t want to jeopardize his player’s health. “I’m thinking ‘big picture’ here,” Matta said. “Much more than Saturday’s game, or anything along those lines.” Sullinger started all 37 games OSU played last season and had started in each of OSU’s first seven games during the 2011-12 campaign until he was forced from the lineup for the team’s 64-35 win against Texas-Pan American last Saturday. Should Sullinger miss the Kansas game, Matta said the team will not deviate from its usual game plan. “To reinvent the wheel — we’re not going to do that,” he said. “I like the progress we’ve made this week.” Without Sullinger, guarding Thomas Robinson, Kansas’ 6-foot-10, 237-pound junior forward, may be complicated. “(Robinson) is a phenomenal basketball player, and probably the best that we’ve gone against this year,” Matta said. That task of defending Robinson would likely fall to junior forward Evan Ravenel or sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas, and then OSU still has the Jayhawks’ 7-foot, 235-pound redshirt junior center Jeff Withey to contend with. Ravenel said hard work could help nullify Robinson and Withey. “Getting early position, boxing out — things you learn when you first start playing basketball,” Ravenel said of his likely defensive assignments. “(Robinson) is a great athlete and he works hard.” With or without Sullinger, Craft said he thinks that playing on the road against Kansas is a great opportunity for OSU. He also thinks the Buckeyes can win. “If Jared doesn’t play, Jared doesn’t play,” he said. “We’re not going to miss a beat. We have great guys like (Ravenel) … that have come in and practiced just as hard as Jared has.” Ravenel agreed. “We work on execution,” Ravenel said. “We’re going to get in there and do everything we can.” OSU (8-0) tips off against Kansas (6-2) at 3:15 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN.
For a majority of the Ohio State football team, one thought comes to mind when they think of Saturday’s upcoming game against Nebraska: “We owe them one.” Some OSU players threw that phrase around after the team’s Wednesday practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. First-year OSU coach Urban Meyer wasn’t part of the Buckeyes’ 34-27 loss in Lincoln, Neb., last season, but he understands his players want revenge. “I have heard them talk about this,” Meyer said Wednesday. “I’ve actually heard, I haven’t brought it up – maybe this weekend or Friday, I’ve got to evaluate where we’re at – but I hear them saying ‘We owe this team.’” Under the lights OSU will have quite the stage for revenge Saturday, with the game being a nationally televised broadcast on ABC, under the lights, with kickoff scheduled for 8:00 p.m. That should help the No. 12-ranked Buckeyes’ chances against the No. 21-ranked Cornhuskers, as Ohio Stadium should be closer to being the “inferno” Meyer has said many times he hopes The Horseshoe can be. Preparing for a night game can pose challenges, though. Players have much more time than usual waiting for kickoff, and what OSU will do Saturday morning and afternoon is something Meyer is still considering. “We’re still finalizing our plans for it. The good thing is, we have a lot of experience with night games, (OSU strength coach Mickey Marotti) and I,” Meyer said. “We want them rested. We have an idea but it hasn’t been completed yet.” Injury update OSU will be without at least one of their playmakers Saturday. Senior running back Jordan Hall will not play in Saturday’s contest as he is still recovering from an injury to his right knee. Buckeye redshirt junior safety C.J Barnett is a “maybe.” “Is there a maybe category? He’s got to get a lot better. He’s still limping around,” Meyer said. Sophomore defensive end Michael Bennett will play after suffering a groin injury before the Buckeyes’ game against Miami. Deep threat Twice this season, and once last year, OSU sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller and sophomore wide receiver Devin Smith have hooked up for a long, game-winning touchdown through the air. Throwing deep is something Meyer said he would like to do more often. He now trusts both Miller and Smith to make connections on long passes, but he wasn’t able to say that in the spring. “If you were to say that before Spring Game – April 21 or something – if you said that April 14 I would have looked at you like you had seven heads. (Smith) has earned that right,” Meyer said of Smith running deep patterns. Defending Nebraska The Huskers don’t have a big, bruising running back like the Buckeyes had to defend last week in Michigan State junior tailback Le’Veon Bell. Many of Nebraska’s players, both offensive and defensive, are of the quicker and leaner build. Don’t say Nebraska isn’t physical, though. “No, no, no. This is a tough outfit. It’s a very physical defense. They fly around. A much different scheme, they try to push you east-west,” Meyer said. Against MSU, the Buckeyes had to focus on mainly just one player – Bell. Nebraska has three capable runners: redshirt junior quarterback Taylor Martinez, senior running back Rex Burkhead and sophomore tailback Ameer Abdullah. Meaning the OSU defense doesn’t have much room for error. “You miss (Martinez) and it’s a home run. That Burkhead just keeps coming at you, coming at you. Their offensive line, I think their offensive line is very good. They block several players as well as anyone I’ve seen,” Meyer said.
The No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes (6-0) will open divisional play this weekend, when they travel to Bloomington, Ind., to face the Indiana Hoosiers (2-3). First-year coach Urban Meyer talked about the upcoming challenge the Hoosiers might present, last weekend’s game against Nebraska and recruiting at the weekly Big Ten football coaches’ teleconference Tuesday. Looking past the Hoosiers? After back-to-back wins against ranked opponents, including a 63-38 drubbing of then-No. 21 Nebraska last weekend, the Buckeyes seem to be a confident bunch. But are they too confident? Meyer said it’s important for his team to realize there is plenty of football to be played before they can be considered a great team. “These kids are 6-0 and a lot of people are telling them how good they are,” Meyer said. “Quite honestly, we have a long way to go.” It is something that, arguably, happens every year in college football. Teams can win a big game against a ranked team, ride that high all week, and then lose to an inferior opponent that they underestimate a week later. Meyer said, however, that he is not concerned with his team’s focus as they prepare for an Indiana team that has lost its last three games. “We’re not at the point that we can start overlooking anybody,” Meyer said. “I’m concerned about execution and stopping them, not overlooking them.” Last week’s win bodes well for the future Last Saturday’s win against Nebraska could have major implications on the OSU football program for years to come. Meyer wasn’t able to give an exact number of recruits in attendance, but said that “there were a lot” of prospective Buckeyes in the Horseshoe last Saturday. Meyer also said the atmosphere in the stadium during the Buckeyes’ blowout left an impression of some of the nation’s elite high school prospects. “It’s a little risky sometimes to have a bunch of recruits come in on a big game, because if you fail and you lose, it’s miserable,” Meyer said. “The atmosphere was tremendous. The way we won in the second half, that was very critical for recruiting.” Miller, the Heisman Hopeful? As one of college football’s leaders in rushing yards per game, and the quarterback of the Big Ten’s only unbeaten team, sophomore Braxton Miller is gaining hype as a Heisman Trophy contender. “He’s one of the best players in the college game,” said Indiana coach Kevin Wilson. Wilson did say that, “there are better players out there,” but pointed out that the sophomore quarterback will only improve as he grows into Meyer’s system. “He’s young,” Wilson said. “Knowing a little bit about him, and knowing the coach that he’s got, he will get better and better. You’re not seeing the best of him.” A key component in winning the Heisman Trophy is having big games on big stages against ranked opponents. Miller might have done that last Saturday, rushing for a career-high 186 yards and scoring two touchdowns in a win against Nebraska. Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, however, was not willing to anoint Miller as a favorite for college football’s most prestigious individual award. “That’s up to you guys,” Pelini said.
Christian Bryant, safety C.J. Barnett, safety Kenny Guiton, quarterback Corey “Pitt” Brown, safety Bradley Roby, cornerback Jordan Hall, running back Andrew Norwell, offensive lineman Jack Mewhort, offensive lineman Corey “Philly” Brown, wide receiver Marcus Hall, offensive lineman Chris Fields, wide receiver Former quarterback Kenny Guiton (13) celebrates a touchdown with former wide receiver Chris Fields (80) and former center Corey Linsley (71) during a game against California Sept. 14, at California Memorial Stadium. OSU won, 52-34.Credit: Eric Seger / Sports editorOhio State is set to hold its Pro Day Friday, and a total of 17 former Buckeyes are on the docket to show their skills.Per an OSU press release, 69 NFL scouts and team personnel are scheduled to attend the Pro Day at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center to get a look at the former Buckeyes — 16 of which were part of last season’s 12-2 squad.The one player who wasn’t on the team last year is Etienne Sabino, a linebacker who played for OSU from 2008-12. Sabino went undrafted in the 2013 NFL Draft, and last played professionally with the New York Giants where he signed April 27 as an unrestricted free agent.According to the release, the NFL allows players to participate in pro days a year after leaving the school.OSU’s Pro Day is likely the final chance former Buckeyes will get to make an impression on NFL teams before the 2014 NFL Draft begins May 8.Below is list of the players scheduled to compete at Pro Day, although the events each will be participating in is unknown: George Makradis, long snapper Etienne Sabino, linebackerRyan Shazier, linebacker Drew Basil, kicker Carlos Hyde, running back Corey Linsley, offensive lineman
Co-offensive coordinator Ryan Day prior to the Ohio State- Oklahoma game on Sep. 9. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorOhio State co-offensive coordinator Ryan Day will likely be the next Urban Meyer assistant coach to be hired elsewhere as a head coach. It just won’t happen this year.Meyer said Wednesday during his press conference on Early Signing Day that Day turned down an offer to be a head coach at a program in the Southeastern Conference.“Coach Day had the opportunity to potentially be a head coach in the SEC and decided to stay at Ohio State,” Meyer said. “He’s done a phenomenal job for us. There have been other coaches on our staff have opportunities to move on and they haven’t, so this coaching staff is very strong right now.”Day was hired last January and inked a two-year contract with Ohio State. He was paid a base salary of $400,000 this season, but that will increase to $800,000 next season.There were a total of six SEC head coach positions open this offseason. Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas and Ole Miss have all filled those positions. It’s unclear which one of those positions offered the job to Day.Day told reporters in the locker room after the Big Ten championship game that he had not been contacted by another school for another job at that point.Day, also the quarterbacks coach, was largely responsible for a turnaround of the Ohio State offense in 2017. The Buckeyes averaged the fifth-most points per game in the country with 42.5 and the passing offense ranked 28th in 2017 with an average of 274.2 yards compared to 81st in 2016 with 213.9 yards.
Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government would continue to take decisions “in an orderly and responsible way” but the Tory Government could not be allowed to “act against Scotland’s wishes and our interests, and reject all attempts at compromise”.She added: “It seems the Westminster Tory Government now think they can do anything to Scotland and get away with it. They must start to understand how wrong they are. The UK Government cannot be allowed to take us out of the EU and the single market, regardless of the impact on our economy, jobs, living standards and our reputation as an open, tolerant country, without Scotland having the ability to choose between that and a different future. “With her comments today, the Prime Minister has only succeeded in making that choice more likely.”Ms Davidson said the Prime Minister had made clear that she would “prioritise the protection of our own union of nations” and said all parts of the UK should now be pulling together.She added: “There is no reason why both Britain and the European Union cannot emerge from the negotiations in stronger shape.”The SNP should have the good grace to accept that many of its own demands – including the protection of workers’ rights, and the protection of rights for EU citizens in Britain and cross-border cooperation on tackling crime – have been recognised by the UK Government.”Ever since the Brexit vote, the SNP has tried to use the result as an excuse for holding a divisive second referendum on independence. It has failed to persuade people in Scotland of that case. Now that the UK Government has spelled out this plan of action, that case has collapsed altogether.”Kezia Dugdale, the Scottish Labour leader, said the speech would increase the divisions in the country and accused the Tories of putting the Union at risk by “furthering the sort of divisions the SNP thrives on”.But she also said it would be the wrong reaction to the speech to call for another referendum. “It’s illogical to react to the UK leaving the EU single market by calling for Scotland to leave the UK single market too. Remaining in the UK is even more important to Scotland than being part of the EU. Scotland’s economy, jobs and public finances are all boosted by remaining in the UK. “Under independence, Scotland would face the prospect of being out of the EU and out of the UK. That would be a disaster for Scotland.” Nicola Sturgeon has warned a new vote on breaking-up Britain is now even “more likely” after Theresa May used her Brexit speech to rule out membership of the single market.The First Minister said that for all the Prime Minister’s “warm words” about the Union, the UK was heading for a hard Brexit that “threatens to be economically catastrophic”.She accused Mrs May of ignoring Scotland’s wishes, adding: “Decisions are being driven not by the rational best interests of the country, but by the obsessions of the hard-right of the Tory party.“It is also becoming clear that a more fundamental issue is emerging – not just whether the UK is in or out of the EU, but what kind of country it is going to be. Theresa May says she wants a stronger UnionCredit:EPA “The Prime Minister gave the game away towards the end of her speech when she talked of the potential for the UK to become a low wage, low tax, deregulated economy. That would see a race to the bottom replace our membership of the single market and everyone – perhaps apart from the very wealthiest – would be worse off as a result.”Opposition parties urged the SNP to rule out another referendum and claimed they wanted a new vote at any cost, while Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, said Mrs May had set out a “clear and reasonable plan” that would see UK businesses continue to “trade freely in Europe after we leave the EU”.The Scottish Government set out its own Brexit proposals before Christmas when it called for the UK to remain in the single market, or for Scotland to remain in the single market while still part of the UK.Ms Sturgeon said that while talks on the proposals were continuing, and the Prime Minister had promised to give them proper consideration, there was still no evidence that “Scotland’s voice was being listened to or our interests taken into account”. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. She first warned the day after the Brexit vote last June that a new vote independence referendum was “highly likely” and said Mrs May’s position would have to change quickly if there was to be “any confidence that Scotland’s interests can be met within the UK”.The First Minister also said that if the UK was leaving the single market there would have to be serious engagement on her proposal to allow Scotland to stay in.
Tommy Robinson, 34, is the former leader of far-right group the English Defence League. Born in Luton, he trained to become an aircraft engineer but was convicted of assaulting an off-duty police officer and was unable to return to his job in Luton Airport as a result. His real name is Stephen Christopher Yaxley, but he has also gone by other names including Andrew McMaster and Paul Harris. Previously a member of the BNP, he co-founded the EDL alongside Kevin Carroll in 2009 and led it until October 2013, when both left after speaking to members of counter-extremism think-tank Quilliam.The EDL’s stated aim was to “oppose the rise of radical Islam” and it predominantly operated through holding street demonstrations. On leaving Robinson said he was concerned about the “dangers of far-right extremism”. However, in 2016 he established Pegida UK, named after the German nationalist, far-right political party Pegida. Now an adviser to the group, he also works for The Rebel Media, a right-wing Canadian website. Piers Morgan argues with Tommy Robinson on Good Morning Britain Earlier this year he was convicted of contempt of court after using a camera inside Canterbury Crown Court, receiving a suspended sentence. Robinson is married with three children. In May Quilliam said he had come to its offices to “abuse and bully” staff and added that he “seems to have regressed”.In 2014 he was jailed for mortgage fraud and served almost six months in prison. Show more Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Women are entitled to a planned caesarean on the NHS, after discussion with a midwife or doctor about the risks. However, anecdotally, many women say they encounter hostility from medical professionals who try to talk them out of the idea.George gave birth at Guy’s and St Thomas’s hospital in south-east London. The baby was delivered early because George was suffering from intrahepatic cholestasis, a liver disorder that develops in pregnancy and can be life-threatening for the unborn child.George asked the anaesthetist to take mobile phone pictures of the procedure, including the moment her baby was delivered. The images are “quite graphic, but no different to the images on Call the Midwife”, she said. The 33-year-old actress explained: “I’m not against natural birth, I’m pro whatever you feel is right for you. It’s not because I’m ‘too posh to push’, it’s about what I think my body is capable of. I’m not good with pain. I faint when I stub my toe. Not that a C-section is the easy way out. It’s a major operation…“If men went through labour, I think the majority would choose the pain-free way, but there is a feeling that women should have to feel pain.”Her character had to ‘perform’ a C-section during the 2016 Christmas special. George did her research then “and decided that if I ever got pregnant myself, that’s what I would do. Lots of people were shocked by that decision, but I’ve experienced natural childbirth through the legs of many an actress and I didn’t want to do it myself.”George said people had tried to convince her not to have a C-section, and there is “a lot of shame” attached to the decision. But she urged women to have the confidence to request the procedure.“I think there needs to be a national conversation about how C-sections are all right and they don’t just have to be for emergencies,” she said. A star of Call the Midwife elected to give birth via caesarean section after working on the show put her off the idea of a natural birth.Helen George called for a national conversation about C-sections, saying they can be a positive choice for women and should not be restricted to medical emergencies.George plays midwife Trixie Franklin in the BBC period drama and is in a relationship with her co-star, Jack Ashton, who plays Rev Tom Hereward. She gave birth to their daughter, Wren, four months ago in an NHS hospital.“I haven’t spoken about this before but I chose to have a C-section. It coincided with the fact that I had to deliver her early but, even without that, I would have gone for an elective caesarean because of what I’d learnt on Call the Midwife.“Working on Call the Midwife means that lots of people tell you their horror stories about birth,” George told Radio Times. George gave birth to her daughter Wren four months agoCredit:Clara Molden Helen George with her partner and Call the Midwife co-star Jack AshtonCredit:Jonathan Brady/PA
Stored gametes of patients who undergo transitioning treatment can later be used for fertility treatments such as IVFCredit:SEBASTIAN KAULITZKI/Science Photo Library RF The letter is the first step of judicial review proceedings.The core of the dispute is over which body has the power to make fertility treatment an ‘essential service’ for transgender patients, which would see it offered automatically. Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive at the EHRC, said: “Our laws and our values protect those who seek treatment for gender dysphoria. This means that where appropriate, treatment should be made available in order to ensure that access to health services is free of discrimination.“A choice between treatment for gender dysphoria and the chance to start a family is not a real choice. We have asked NHS England to reflect on the true breadth of their statutory mandate and the impact on the transgender community of these outdated policies.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. The EHRC placed the blame at the feet of individual clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), NHS bodies that plan and commission services in their local area.But NHS England responded on Saturday that the EHRC had “misplaced their fire”, and claimed that government ministers were instead responsible for commissioning NHS services.“Decisions on which services are commissioned by NHS England are taken by ministers based on advice from an independently-chaired panel of health experts and patient representatives, using a process set out in primary legislation,” a spokesman said.A spokeswoman from the EHRC yesterday told The Daily Telegraph: “‘We are challenging their interpretation of their powers and don’t accept that they cannot include gamete storage in the list of commissioned services.” The NHS is accused of using an “interpretation” of their legal powers which allows them to deflect criticism of policy onto the government.Credit:Lynne Cameron/PA NHS England has 14 days to respond to the letter.The Department of Health declined to comment. The NHS must offer fertility treatments to transgender patients awaiting transitioning treatment or risk breaking anti-discrimination legislation, the UK’s human rights watchdog has said. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) accused the NHS of using a “interpretation” of its own legal powers that allowed it to deflect criticism over lack of fertility provision onto the government.Transitioning treatment is given to patients with gender dysphoria – the feeling of discomfort or distress caused by a mismatch between biological sex and gender identity – and can result in fertility loss.The EHRC said trans patients should be offered the opportunity to store their eggs or sperm, a process known as gamete extraction, otherwise thousands could be forced to choose between the essential medical treatment and not having their own biological children.Fertility treatment is already available to some patients who undergo fertility-threatening procedures such as chemotherapy, to allow them to conceive afterwards.The EHRC issued a legal letter to NHS England on Friday, claiming that the withholding of fertility treatments from transgender patients constituted discrimination. It also warned that it would take legal action if policies were not changed.
“By starting this very public conversation we hope to work with partners to create a joined-up approach that will hopefully lower the number of people using the drug and tackle the production and supply of the drug.”Users of the drug have been seen risking their lives and lashing out in drug-induced violent outbursts. They warned that some users have died while under the influence of the drug.“People who take these substances have absolutely no way of knowing what is contained within them as the chemicals are untested and unregulated,” said a West Midlands Ambulance Service spokesman.“The effect on the patient can vary considerably; our staff often treat legal high users who have suffered seizures, heart attacks and strokes. Some patients are left with long term illnesses whilst others never wake up. “Working with our partners we must improve education and prevention efforts to stop people taking the drug in the first place, but we also need to identify more effective ways to treat those already under the influence. Chief Superintendent Jeff Moore said: “The drug is highly addictive and highly unpredictable, meaning emergency services can often struggle to provide the appropriate treatment to those under the influence. “Every user acts differently, displaying behaviour that is volatile and dangerous to both the user and emergency services personnel responding. The level of resource required is often far greater than we have experienced before with some suffering the effects of use for several days. “It is not uncommon for users to mix these substances with alcohol which can lead to an even more severe adverse reaction.“Because it is impossible to tell what substances are used within the drugs, it can make it extremely difficult for our staff to provide treatment. In short, users are putting their lives at risk every time they take them.” One man, pictured in the centre, had to be restrained by police officers so paramedics could treat his injuriesCredit:Staffordshire Police Police have warned of a potential public health crisis if the deadly drug known as ‘Monkey Dust’ is not dealt with immediately.The psychotic substance, which can cost as little as £2 for a small bag is a Class B drug and its effects have led people to jump off the roofs of houses and run into busy traffic.The drug, also known as MDPV, is synthetic and comes in powder form. It can be snorted, injected or smoked and its side effects can include paranoia and hallucinations. Another effect of monkey dust is that it can make users feel incredibly strong and lowers their pain perception. One ambulance worker in Staffordshire, where the problem is most acute, said that trying to restrain users can be like trying to restrain the Incredible Hulk.Staffordshire Police say that they are receiving an average of 10 or more calls a day related to monkey dust, with 950 incidents responded to in the last three months alone. The man who jumped from the roof had to be restrained by officers after he got up and started lashing out at policeCredit:Staffordshire Police “The effects can lead to the patient suffering extreme highs and lows which sometimes results in patients appearing to be suffering mental health issues at one end of the scale to extreme violence at the other. A man high on ‘Monkey Dust’ prepares to jump off a house and onto a car bonnet belowCredit:Staffordshire Police Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
“We are appealing for information from those who were out and about in the area at the time of the attack and saw anything of note.”My team is particularly keen to trace a light skinned black male, about 6ft tall who was seen near the scene at the time of the incident. Did you see him? Do you know who he is? Anyone with information on his identity or whereabouts is urged to contact police.”Mr Hands later tweeted praise for the passers-by who had tried to save Nathaniel: London’s knife crime epidemic continued as a 29-year-old man was stabbed to death just yards from the Fulham home of murdered TV presenter, Jill Dando. The man, named locally as Nathaniel, was fatally knifed in the early hours of Saturday, Scotland Yard said, and becomes the 27th person in the capital to be killed with a blade this year.He was a former engineering student at the University of Southampton and a ‘good guy’, friends have said. Police were called to the scene at around 12.27am to reports ‘of a fight in progress’ by ambulance crews. Neighbours reported they had heard an argument break out before police and paramedics arrived. The 29-year-old was found with stab wounds and later pronounced dead at the corner of Gowan Avenue and Munster Road just before 1am – despite initial attempts by members of the public and later paramedics, to save his life. Ms Dando was 37 and engaged when she was shot in the head on the doorstep of her home in Gowan Avenue on April 26 1999. The scene of the latest stabbing is understood to be just 80 yards from her former home.Detectives are searching for a ‘light skinned black man’ of 6ft in height who was in the area at the time. This shows how close crime has gotten to my Fulham constituents. Last night, I, my family & many others were having dinner at this restaurant. A few hours later, the fatal stabbing occurred 20 metres up this road. The car breaking in the background is being diverted. pic.twitter.com/XRvQxdjlSb— Greg Hands (@GregHands) March 16, 2019 DCI Lloyd said the victim’s next of kin have now been informed, and a post-mortem will take place in due course.He added: “Enquiries including forensic analysis and the review of local CCTV footage at the time of the incident continue.”A white forensic tent remained at the scene on Saturday and several police officers stood guard at the cordon.Barry George was convicted of Ms Dando’s murder in 2001 but cleared at a retrial in 2008 after doubts emerged about the reliability of gunshot powder, found in his pocket, which was relied upon by the prosecution at his first trial. Anyone with information is asked to call 101 quoting reference 179/16 March. The Metropolitan Police told The Telegraph that the murder was not believed to be gang related. Conservative MP for Chelsea and Fulham, Greg Hands tweeted: Scene of crime officers at the scene in FulhamCredit: Ben Cawthra/London News Pictures Ltd A friend of Nathaniel described him as a ‘good guy’. The friend, who visited the cordon on Saturday morning, said: “It’s still processing, he was a good guy, he was a big man, 29, you don’t do silly things like this, knife crimes.”The friend, who asked not to be named, said he was not aware of similar violent incidents in the largely quiet residential area but added: “There might have been a stabbing in this area, don’t get me wrong, but they are normally with kids, not people our age.”Even if there was a little problem it should not have led to this.”A neighbour, who asked not to be named, said: “I heard an argument but not very loud screams, not a violent argument, no tussling and then they just wandered off. Have thanked the local Fulham man who gave CPR to the victim in the fatal stabbing last night. A hero – and the group of girls from New Zealand (ironically) who helped too. A traumatic experience for all of them, but we thank them.— Greg Hands (@GregHands) March 16, 2019 “I heard no screams at all, you expect a fight and a scream but there was not really any of that, just loud voices.”Det Chief Insp Glen Lloyd, who is leading the investigation, said: “This murder investigation continues apace. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
But as the country approaches the local elections next month, a different picture of parish councils is emerging – one of empty seats. Thousands across the country are estimated to be avoiding the polls because not enough people have come forward to contest the seats. In a handful of cases, no one has come forward at all. This is despite parish councils being increasingly called up on to pick up the slack from cuts to services. They are thought of as hotbeds of gossip and corruption, packed full of village busybodies and colourful oddballs. In Dorset, 130 out of 163 parishes have not attracted enough candidates to hold elections on May 2. Of those, 20 have no candidates at all, so will no longer…
“Whereas at one time afternoon breaks were a daily experience for nearly all primary school children, now they are increasingly a thing of the past,” he said. “Not only are break times an opportunity for children to get physical exercise – an issue of particular concern given the rise in obesity – but they provide valuable time to make friends and to develop important social skills, experiences that are not necessarily learned or taught in formal lessons.”Dr Baines said that the decline in lunch breaks is of “particular concern”, adding that children now “barely have enough time to queue up and to eat their lunch” let alone have time for anything else. School playtime is becoming a thing of the past for a generation of children, a new report has found. Just one per cent of secondary schools now have afternoon breaks compared to 41 per cent almost three decades ago, according to study by University College London’s Institute of Education.Researchers examined how school breaks and children’s social lives have changed over time by comparing data from over 1,000 primary and secondary schools in 2017, 2006 and 1995.There has been a “marked reduction” in the total amount of break time children are allowed, with 11 to 16-year-olds now having 65 minutes per week less than they did a quarter of a century ago.It comes amid rising concern about childhood obesity levels, with more than 22,000 out of 556,000 of children in Year 6 classed as severely obese.Anti-obesity campaigners have described the report’s findings as “woeful”, saying that ministers must intervene and set guidelines for schools on break times. The length of the school day has remained more or less the same over the past 25 years but break times are being “squeezed” out, according to Dr Ed Baines, one of the report’s authors, with potentially “serious implications” for children’s well-being and development. The study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, also found that there has been a “marked increase” in the average numbers of adults supervising at breaktimes in primary and secondary schools since 1995.Tam Fry, chair of the national obesity forum, said he is “horrified” by the report’s findings.“We believe that primary and secondary schools should be making sure that school children have one hour every day,” he told The Daily Telegraph.“It is totally meaningless to say we will do nothing, children can do it in their own time. It is just woeful that we have taken this very uninspiring attitude towards physical activity.”“It is up to the Government to set the rules and the guidelines which all school should be following. If you leave it to the schools they are so stretched and overworked it will fall by the wayside.”A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The government has given all schools the autonomy to make decisions about the structure and duration of their school day. “However, we are clear that pupils should be given an appropriate break and we expect school leaders to make sure this happens. “We recognise the importance of physical activity in schools to improve both physical and mental wellbeing.” The Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines state that primary age children should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day, the spokesman said. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. In 1995, just a third of secondary schools (30 per cent) reported lunch breaks of less than 55 minutes, but now this has risen to 82 per cent. Meanwhile, a quarter of secondary schools reported lunchtimes of 35 minutes or less.The average secondary school pupil had 76 minutes of break time a day in 1995. That fell to 69 minutes in 2006 and just 63 minutes in 2017. The trend is mirrored in primary schools, where pupils aged five to seven had 94 minutes of break time a day in 1995, which dropped to 91 in 2006 and to 85 in 2017. For youngsters aged seven to 11, break time dropped from an average of 83 minutes a day in 1995 to 77 in 2006 and 75 in 2017. Dr Baines said that the decline in lunch breaks is of “particular concern”